Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Conscience of the Sector

Rick Cohen passed away last week.

If you didn’t know who Rick was, he was a crusading journalist who strove to unearth and correct injustices in our sector and our society, and fought every day for the rights of the underserved and downtrodden in our communities.

Rick never flinched from taking on “the powers that be” and established ideas about philanthropy that needed to be rethought as the world changed. His work has transformed the conversations we have in the sector about how we provide services, our responsibility to our constituents and what philanthropy truly means in our society.

I think Rick fought so hard because he believed so much in the power of philanthropy—of people coming together to change our world. But he also believed that because of the influence that the sector wields—because people give us their money freely and believe in what we do—that we have to abide by the highest possible standards. Simply because we do good work doesn’t mean that we get to slide by on issues related to accountability and transparency, to name just a couple.

The Nonprofit Quarterly, where Rick worked for many years, has set up an online memorial for him, and one of the first commentators described Rick as “the conscience of the sector.” I couldn’t agree more.

I may not have always agreed with everything Rick wrote, but I knew his arguments would always be thoughtful, backed up with strong evidence, and make us rethink how we always do things.

Rich Cohen will be missed greatly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

National Philanthropy Day: Thank You!

We just held an amazing National Philanthropy Day Honors event in New York City on Nov. 12, and the stories of our honorees never cease to inspire me. I hope you’ve been able to attend or are planning to attend a local National Philanthropy Day event.

It’s no coincidence that we celebrate National Philanthropy Day® (NPD) when we do. Recognized in the same time period as Veterans Day (Remembrance Day or Armistice Day for some), as well as Thanksgiving (both U.S. and Canada), Giving Tuesday and several religious holidays, NPD is a time for commemoration and recognition, giving back and saying thanks.

So let me say thank you to all of you—whether you’re a fundraiser or donor, nonprofit employee or volunteer.

Since 1986, National Philanthropy Day has brought together local communities to honor outstanding work by donors, volunteers, corporations, foundations, fundraisers and everyone involved in the philanthropic process. The day is also an opportunity to focus attention on the issues and challenges that still face our society—and how we need to work together to solve them.

NPD encapsulates the very foundation of philanthropy and our core values as a community: impact, unity, compassion, generosity and commitment. Everything that is best about philanthropy and fundraising—everything that is best about our world!—are what we highlight during this great event. It unites us all as nothing else does.

So thank you. Thank you for everything you do to improve our communities through philanthropy—whether it’s giving, volunteering, mentoring, engagement, online activism or any other way you’re making a difference. It all matters, and our world is so much the better because of what you do.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Calling Young Professionals (And Those Young at Heart)

Guest blogging this week on the AFP Blog is the Marketing Chair of AFP’s Youth in Philanthropy Committee Valerie M. Pletcher, MinstF (Adv Dip). Valerie talks about AFP’s collaboration with the Jefferson Awards Foundation Students in Action program and our role in educating youth about fundraising and philanthropy.

When I was a young fundraising professional, I was heavily influenced by my upbringing with Fred Rogers. You know, Mister Rogers (the PBS show).  He always found the most creative ways to teach kids about giving and receiving—and with no strings attached.

Nothing was more profound to me than the moment when he accepted his Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award. While on a Hollywood stage, he paused and asked: “Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are ... Ten seconds of silence."

I still get shivers thinking about him looking at his watch and saying, “I'll watch the time." For the next ten seconds the entire audience (and I imagine everyone watching at home) were silent, thinking of those people who had a profound impact on their lives.

Who helped you become who you are today?

If you are like most fundraising and nonprofit professionals, someone special had a hand in influencing your decision to take on this extraordinary career.  We can all take a moment and think about those people, but we can also take the time now to think forward. We can think about who we will influence and help to grow today.

AFP’s Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) Program, in collaboration with the Jefferson Awards Foundation, Students in Action Program, has taken on the role of educating youth, grades K-12, about ethical fundraising and philanthropy.   While there are other programs that help young people to develop ideas, achieve impact and fund projects, few programs combine the basics of fundraising education with real-world ethical situations, and that also include a pathway to a career in fundraising.  I think that is pretty cool, and it’s why I have been a member of the AFP program for more than eight years.

Now I am asking you, especially our AFP Young Professional members, to pay it forward.

As a member of the largest professional fundraising association in the world, you have tremendous power and influence over how our sector shapes the future.  As an AFP member, you can participate in educating youth on the fundamentals of ethical fundraising and give them an early appreciation for philanthropy, while building your own career experience and CFRE credit—what an amazing gift!

I encourage you to take a look now at the program and the many ways you can participate. In fact, here are three things you can do now:

1) Volunteer to work on the YIP Award program at your chapter;

2) Contact your board president to see if you and some of your colleagues can start a YIP education program at your chapter; and

3) Email AFP’s YIP Coordinator, Pat Bjorhovde (pat@bjorhovde.com) to set up a conference call with members of the YIP subcommittee to talk specifically about programs you can start in your chapter.

In the end, the true gift you give as an AFP YIP educator is helping a young person on their path to life-long success. In giving of your own time and talent, you help the next generation to achieve great things and perhaps make our world an even better place for all.  I think Mister Rogers would love that too.

Thank you!

Valerie M. Pletcher, MinstF (Adv Dip) is marketing chair of the AFP Youth in Philanthropy Committee Marketing Chair and serves as chief development officer of the Brady Campaign & Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

National Philanthropy Day Every Day

Last year I wrote a blog with the exact same title. Because I said that we needed to celebrate our donors not just on National Philanthropy Day, but every day.

I don’t normally like to repeat titles of posts, but the convergence of the latest Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) report and National Philanthropy Day make the idea worth echoing.

Just 43 percent of donors support the same charity two years in a row according to the recently released 2015 FEP report. That means more than half of our supporters don’t think of enough of us to continue giving for more than one year.

Now some of you might say, well, what if someone was asked to give by a friend, or through a Facebook campaign where you didn’t really know them?

But those are the very opportunities we MUST take advantage of to create long-standing connections.  If it’s a true we only get one chance to make a first impression, then we have to do a better job of making that impression and keeping more of our new donors.

Which is precisely why we have to treat each day like it’s National Philanthropy Day and celebrate and acknowledge the impact of our donors every chance we get.

I’m not suggesting you go overboard in your recognition. But we clearly need to get better member at retention, and that begins with communications—and not just how we recognize donors, but how we inform, compel and inspire them to become more engaged. And maybe it’s not just through giving either, but through volunteering or other types of social engagement that create impact.

When we do that and increase that 43 percent figure, we will truly have something to celebrate.

Speaking of National Philanthropy Day, I hope you will join us at the AFP International’s 2nd annual National Philanthropy Day Honors event in New York City on Nov. 12 at the 92nd Street Y community center.  It’s free to attend and will feature some great speakers, including our National Philanthropy Day Chair T. Denny Sanford, along with Maria Cuomo Cole and Geoffrey Canada.

To register for the event, click here!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Board Engagement Beyond Fundraising

We’re fundraisers. Our goal is to inspire people to engage with our charities, typically leading to gifts of money and time.

But that engagement can lead to other important activities as well—such as advocacy and lobbying. We cannot forget the impact that public policy can have on our organizations, and in turn, the impact of grassroots support from our donors and supporters.

Of course, some of our biggest supporters are our board members. They are our champions and advocates, and as such, they need to be engaged on the front lines when it comes to public policy.

But how we do we do that? Most of us are probably very good at identifying board member skills when it comes to fundraising, but what about advocacy? How do we position our board members to address legislative and regulatory issues that can dramatically affect what we do and how we do it?

BoardSource has just launched a new campaign, Stand for Your Mission, which “seeks to unleash the full potential of the nonprofit sector to create positive impact by engaging board leaders more directly in the advocacy work of their organizations.”

I recommend you take a look at the website and download the guide. And if you haven’t seen it already, Sonya Campion, a long-time AFP member, has an excellent op-ed on The Chronicle of Philanthropy website on making advocacy a major part of every board member’s duty.

AFP is working to engage you—the fundraising profession—in advocacy and public policy, and you have an equal responsibility to engage your board—your greatest champions—in this arena as well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who We Are

We’ve just released our latest Compensation and Benefits Report—covering 2014—and if you need information about your salary and other benefits, it’s the resource to use. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more detailed survey of the fundraising profession, and with our new Job Title Mini-Reports, we’re giving you more specific, targeted compensation and benefits data than ever before.

But the report goes way beyond just look at salaries, and I think this is a point that’s often missed. We question survey participants about all aspects of being in the profession, from demographics and key challenges in the work place to why they entered the profession and getting prepared for retirement.

Do you feel like you need more education in order to advance your career? It’s probably a good idea to consider it. Nineteen percent of respondents held the CFRE, while 43 percent have taken continuing education programs or graduate courses (certificate, master’s, Ph.D.) related to fundraising, nonprofit management or philanthropy at a college or university.  Ten percent of all respondents plan to take courses in the future.

Feeling the pressures of having insufficient staff personnel? You’re not alone. It was the most popular challenge selected by honorees, followed by “leaders who don’t appreciate fundraising” and “competition from other assigned duties.”

The report even contains some organizational data. While you can look at salaries based on funds raised and annual budget, there’s also information on staffing, and how many staff charities have in different departments.

The Compensation and Benefits Report is a snapshot of who the profession, what we’re thinking, and the challenges we’re facing. Should you use it to negotiate a better salary, or ensure you keep your staff benefits competitive? I encourage you to do so, and our new Job Title Mini-Reports are made just for that.

But there’s a wealth of other data that you should know—about your colleagues, the profession and even about yourself.  The Compensation and Benefits Report is a great resource, and I encourage you to download it now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Giving USA 2015: Record Giving and Growth, But Still Stuck at Two Percent GDP

You’ve probably seen some of the major Giving USA 2015 numbers already: growth of over five percent (adjusted for inflation) and a record level of giving at $358.4 billion. Amazing figures, and the data aligns with what we saw with the Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s (NRC) 2014 Year-End Fundraising Survey: strong growth in fundraising across the board with fundraising success levels at what we saw before the recession.

What’s really striking about the Giving USA data is just how quickly it took for giving to rise back to pre-recession levels. Just a few years ago, there was talk about how it might take a decade for giving to recover. Now it’s done so in just half that time. That speaks to the strong tradition of and investment in philanthropy in the U.S., as well as the level of professionalism within fundraising.

While the level of giving has returned to its pre-recession point, the makeup of giving has continued to change. Religious giving, which used to account for half of all giving decades ago, represented only 32 percent of total gifts in 2014. Arts, cultural and humanities groups saw the biggest growth in giving in 2014, which parallels what we saw for such groups in the NRC Year-End Survey as well (arts and culture groups experienced the biggest growth as well). 

Despite all the fantastic news, overall charitable giving accounted for just 2.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product. It’s a challenge we’ve faced for many years now: how to get giving significantly past the 1.8 – 2.0 percent hurdle where it has been stuck at for decades (reaching 2.4 percent once in 2000). It’s one of the key goals for AFP, and we’ll be using a variety of research and public policy tools to find new and innovative ways to push giving to higher levels.

For more information and analysis of Giving USA 2015, check out these resources from our eWire newsletter, including information about how members can get a 30 percent discount on all Giving USA products.